A Victoria palaeontologist’s more than 10 years of research have paid off with the confirmation of an entirely new species of dinosaur and the first dinosaur species unique to the province.
“Buster” was discovered in 1971 near Sustut River in northern B.C. when a geologist noticed a “mysterious claw” among the rocks near the rail line, north of Smithers. It was one of the first dinosaurs skeletons discovered in B.C., but it would be nearly five decades before it had a name.
At the Royal BC Museum, curator of palaeontology Victoria Arbour’s research identified the dinosaur as an entirely new species, the ‘Ferrisaurus sustutensis,’ meaning “the iron lizard from the Sustut River.” Arbour prefers to call her discovery “Buster.”
The Ferrisaurus is a new species in a rare family of dinosaurs called ‘Leptoceratopsidae,’ described by the museum as “hornless, parrot-beaked plant-eaters closely related to the Triceratops.” At about 1.75 metres long and weighing around 330 lbs., the dinosaur was similar in size to a bighorn sheep.
|Victoria Arbour, the Royal BC Museum’s curator of palaeontology conducted years of studying to uncover a news species of dinosaur: the Ferrisaurus sustutensis. (Photo Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum)|
“It’s very exciting because it’s the first unique dinosaur, sort of the first new dinosaur species from British Columbia, which isn’t a place that’s super well-known for dinosaurs, even though we do actually have some fossils in the province,” Arbour tells Black Press Media.
“I’m particularly excited because I feel like this is hopefully going to open up a bit of a new era for dinosaur research in the province and hopefully lead to more discoveries in the future”
A statement from Jack Lohman, CEO of the Royal BC Museum says,“luck may have played a role in discovering this specimen, but it was only through thorough research that the world now recognizes this as a new species. This spectacular news is yet another example of how the Royal BC Museum advances knowledge of the natural world through hard work in the collections and the field.”
On Thursday, Arbour and co-author David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum published the discovery in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PeerJ – the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences.
Buster’s bones and other fossils from the same region helped the palaeontologist learn about B.C. 67 million years ago, when dinosaurs walked the province’s rugged landscape. Two years ago, Arbour led an expedition to Sustut River, searching near the Sustut basin to find the site where Buster’s claw was discovered nearly 50 years earlier.
The expedition turned up new fossils including plants and part of a turtle, all of which have joined Buster as part of the Royal BC Museum’s collection.
Visitors can learn more about Buster and his story at a Pocket Gallery display called ‘BC’s Mountain Dinosaur,’ located in the museum’s main floor, accessible to all visitors free of charge until Feb. 26, 2020.